MONTICELLO, NY — With this legislature, peace is never permanent. In the last little while, most standing committee meetings of the Sullivan County Legislature have been brisk and efficient; …
MONTICELLO, NY — With this legislature, peace is never permanent. In the last little while, most standing committee meetings of the Sullivan County Legislature have been brisk and efficient; votes are held and resolutions often pass 9-0.
The health and family services standing committee is an exception. Rancor broke out again at the March 11 meeting as chair Nadia Rajsz introduced a resolution to censure chairman Rob Doherty over an angry January statement about a fellow legislator that he posted on the county website. The resolution failed 2-3.
That sounds pretty bare-bones; the reality was far more furious. This was revisited with public responses to legislators’ statements during the comment period at the March 19 full legislature meeting.
Activist Sandra Oxford took issue with legislator Michael Brooks’ categorization of Rajsz’s censure resolution as being too “emotional.” On March 11, Brooks responded to the resolution: “Anybody who’s been present at our meetings... knows that you and the chair have a lot of disagreements,” he said to Rajsz. He argued that the resolution was based on emotion and “not borne of rational thought.” He talked about “different ways of doing things.”
At the time, Rajsz countered, “We can’t be making slanderous statements and posting them on the county site! This is slanderous,” she repeated. “It has to come off the website... please remember, this is libelous.”
In light of that conversation, Oxford said, “Labeling [a] woman’s speech as ‘emotional’ is how ‘women’s voices [are] silenced.’” While thanking Rajsz for introducing the resolution, she challenged Brooks by saying, “You haven’t said a single syllable about any of this; you haven’t addressed any of the other men here with their emotions and their disrespect.”
She was referring, in part, to an argument on March 11 that broke out between Doherty and Joe Perrello during the censure conversation. The chair called Perrello a “punk” several times, Perrello demanded to know if he was being threatened and something was said about an envelope. Rajsz and Brooks finally got the meeting in order. When put to a vote, the resolution on censure failed with Sorensen, Brooks and Salomone voting against.
After she was cut off, Oxford flung over her shoulder, “Thank you for honoring women on the legislative website.”
Liberty resident Dave Colavito, a regular at the meetings, questioned the lack of accountability introduced by doing nothing to hold Doherty responsible. “There’s no distinction made between [baseless] opinions... and opinions that are very well informed. The chairman should not be putting garbage up on the county website,” he said.
“You felt that this was dwelling on the past, that we all wanted to move on,” he continued. “My concern with that is, I hope that is not code for ‘any time that you, as an elected official, need to be held to account,’ because sometimes we can’t move forward without accountability.”
The January statement was removed from the website following the March 11 meeting. Alvarez filed a lawsuit on March 10 against Doherty alleging character assassination.